I have grown an enjoyable friendship with a person I have known for a few years. I have become aware over time that this person is a racist in particular towards Australian Aboriginals.

This person believes that aboriginals are inferior to Caucasian people. We have discussed it and this person knows that I find such racist positions unacceptable. So we rarely discuss it any more.

I like this person a lot but I wonder if it is moral for me to remain friends with this person.

On the one hand I would like to believe that I have zero tolerance for racism. I certainly won’t keep quiet if I hear a racist statement. On the other hand I do want to stay friends with this person. I wonder if being an influence for non-racism over time is a valid moral reason for staying friends with this person.

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    I made an edit. You may roll this back or continue to edit the question further. You can click on the "edited" link above my avatar to see the changes. I don't have an answer for you. It occurs to me that if I stopped being friends with everyone I disagreed with I wouldn't have any friends. Best wishes and welcome to this SE. – Frank Hubeny Jul 14 '18 at 8:43
  • Is it really racism to say one race is worse is doing something than another? E.g. I am caucasian (I think it's an awkward word in fact to denote the race of people coming from the Europe) but believe eastern-asians are better in some tasks and worse in some task on average. Just like there are differences between individuals, there are same between races. What exactly is named "inferiority" here? Does your friend accept they should not be tolerated or what? – rus9384 Jul 14 '18 at 12:59
  • I feel that it is VERY WRONG, to continue a friendship with a racist person, after you become aware of his/hers racist behavior. The more blatant the racism, the faster you should "drop" the friendship. The saying "tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are" has a lot of wisdom in it. – Guill Jul 16 '18 at 23:51

Friendship is a good thing, if anything is. I can imagine few circumstances in which it should be deliberately ended - and yours are not among them.

If X, the person you're talking about, were to publicly racialise (to coin a phrase) with no contradiction from you and with the impression left on others that you agreed or didn't disagree with X's views, this would be unethical. It would not be a reason to end the friendship but it would indicate a morally below-par moral side of you. However, you do not deal with X's racialism in this way. You make clear that you reject X's racist views altogether. I see no problem here, no moral shortcoming on your side, and (to repeat) no reason to end the friendship.

Most friends have tendencies, interests, habits, opinions that we dislike. Your moral integrity is compromised only if racism - its rejection and countering - not only is important to you but important in a way that entails avoiding the close company - friendship - of anyone with racist views. But now, it's clear from your very question that you do not believe that your rejection of racism entails this. If you don't believe it does then you are not acting contrary to reflective conscience in keeping up the friendship with X. What more can we ask morally of anyone than that they act on their reflective conscience ? That your conscience is reflective is evident.

Only if you came to believe that your rejection of racism entailed avoiding the close company - friendship - of anyone with racist views would you have moral grounds for ending the friendship. But (to repeat) you do not believe this now or you would not have asked your question. Advice : stay anti-racist, make evident when appropriate your repudiation of X's views, and stay friends.

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  • Re "...yours are not among them", is there a point/slippery-slope beyond which maybe they are? For example, consider an extreme where the op and his friend are in Nazi Germany circa 1943. And the friend's a vocal Nazi supporter. Mind you, he's not >>doing<< anything -- not gassing any Jews, not even turning any in to be gassed. But he's loudly applauding all those who are gassing and turning in, etc. Is this guy still your friend? Even if you make it clear you're against what he stands for, any friendship makes his emotional life more stable, so he can continue his Nazi support more easily. – John Forkosh Jul 14 '18 at 20:18
  • @John Forkosh. Thank you - your point is well taken. There are situations, such as you describe, in which friendship either wouldn't be suitable or perhaps even emotionally possible. But my answer was contextual : I was addressing the questioner in his/ her particular situation. I stick to my answer in its limited context. In other contexts I should answer differently. I much appreciate the wider perspective you bring. Best - Geoff. – Geoffrey Thomas Jul 14 '18 at 20:38
  • Thanks, but just for black-and-white clarity, I meant to take it beyond "wouldn't be suitable or perhaps even emotionally possible". The op's question is "if it is moral", and I'd like to suggest that it's >>unequivocally immoral<<. Maybe not, as you say, in the op's particular circumstances (although I'd bet there are some Australian Aboriginals who'd disagree), but there does exist some point/slippery-slope beyond which it indeed becomes unequivocally immoral. No mincing words. – John Forkosh Jul 14 '18 at 21:22
  • @John Forkosh. I think I have friends to whom I would remain loyal whatever they did. This does not mean that I would support them in whatever they did; I might have to report them to the authorities or otherwise & drastically put a stop to certain of their activities. But it would not end the friendship, at least on my side. Perhaps this is my version of 'hating the sin and loving the sinner'. Perhaps my stance puts me morally at fault but I do not see matters in the black and white way you do. Or rather, I do : but my black and white is that the friendship remains. – Geoffrey Thomas Jul 14 '18 at 22:00
  • @John Forkosh. I think I have friends to whom I would remain loyal whatever they did. This does not mean that I would support them in whatever they did; I might have to report them to the authorities or otherwise & drastically put a stop to certain of their activities. But it would not end the friendship, at least on my side. Perhaps this is my version of 'hating the sin and loving the sinner'. My stance may put me morally at fault by your ethical standards but I see no necessary reason for ethical standards to be compatible. – Geoffrey Thomas Jul 14 '18 at 22:06

I don't think that you have provided enough information to judge, and so my first pass is "no, that doesn't sound immoral".

Does your friend indulge the racism around others or actually harm Aboriginals and expect you not to say anything? Does your friend make you feel inferior for your beliefs, and do you find that hard to get over? Is your friend trying in subtle but persistent ways to get you to change your mind about the racism, perhaps by claiming that anti-racists are hurtful? Does your friend invite you to parties where you're the only anti-racist and everybody else is actually doing something to harm Aboriginals?

Have others you know made it clear that they want you to stop doing things with this person because of this person's beliefs? ...because of this person's racist rhetoric? ...because of what this person is doing to harm Aboriginals?

Is this person an influencer in his or her own right--- someone with well-known ideas and toward whom all the neighbors (or co-workers, family members, etc.) identify as either for or against?

Aristotle claimed that "man's best friend is one who wishes well to the object of his wish for his sake" ( http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.mb.txt ).

Friends want what's best for each other. If your friend is causing you to do bad stuff or to lose your confidence, then that is not friendship that is wise for you to maintain.

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  • This answer could be improved if references were made to an established philosophy or way of thinking supporting the claims made. – Carl Masens Sep 26 '18 at 14:39

Nobody is free of committing racism: being exposed to racism makes you a racist by definition, because this is a proof that you consider yourself a part of race different from other races, not just a member of a universal species. Ex: African Americans complaining about racism are racist themselves.

Your complain about his racism is a racism itself.

Racism is part of the human-nature thus unfortunately universal.

Racism is essential for mental health: it's a nourisher to one's self-esteem, which is essential for the mental health.[1][2]

I am not advocating racism, but as long as it remains as a psychological offence and does not reach a physical level, it's okay. So as long as his hate for the aboriginals does not grant him the permission to physically harm these people, it's okay.


[1]It was Alfred Adler that saw that low self-esteem is the cause of mental illness.

[2]The worm at the Core: On the role of Death in Life by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski:

This book contains social experiments that prove that racism is a dependable way to boost one's self-esteem.

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  • Re, "Your complaint about his racism is a racism itself" -- it's prejudiced but not racist, per se. And re "Racism is essential for mental health", I'd likewise argue that (to paraphrase) "prejudice is a dependable way to boost one's self-esteem", which could be a racial prejudice (hence racism), but not necessarily. For example, I'm a recreational sailor with moderate skills, and a frequent crewmate friend really looks down his nose at people less skilled than he is. And it's pretty clear (to me) that's a self-esteem booster for him, but you couldn't call it racist -- just a-hole-ist:) – John Forkosh Jul 14 '18 at 7:55
  • -1 You are working from a non-standard definition of "racism" that you don't explicitly provide, and you provide neither support for nor explanation of your controversial claim/example in the first paragraph. As it stands, this is a very poor quality answer. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Sep 26 '18 at 18:25

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